, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1861-1870
Date: 12 Feb 2013

Cancer patients’ experiences with and perceived outcomes of yoga: results from focus groups

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Abstract

Purpose

Yoga is a “mind–body” exercise, a combination of physical poses with breathing and meditation, and may have beneficial effects on physical and psychosocial symptoms. We aimed to explore cancer patients’ motives for practicing yoga, experiences of practicing yoga, and perceived physical and psychosocial outcomes.

Methods

Participants (n = 45) following yoga classes for cancer patients were asked to participate in focus group interviews, of whom 29 participated. The focus groups (n = 5) were audio taped with prior consent and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed by two coders and independently coded into key issues and themes.

Results

Mean age of the participants was 53.8 (SD 10.8) years, of whom 25 were women, and 18 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Motives for participation in yoga were relaxation, the will to be physically active, the wish to pay more attention to one’s body, coping with psychosocial symptoms, contributing to their cancer rehabilitation process, and combing physical and mental processes. Main physical and psychosocial experiences of yoga mentioned by patients were regaining body awareness, raising attention to the inner self, learning how to relax, enjoyment, and finding recognition and understanding. Increased physical fitness and function, mental strength and resilience, increased coping, being more relaxed, and happiness were frequently mentioned experiences of patients.

Conclusions

Patients with different types of cancer perceived several benefits on physical and psychosocial outcomes by practicing yoga. Therefore, yoga can be a valuable form of supportive care for cancer patients.

The results of this paper were presented at the MASCC/ISOO 2012 International Symposium on Supportive Care in Cancer in New York City on June 28–30, 2012.